Hallman Tudders & Sorrentino are the legal beagles who conduct the County's labor negotiations with 11 different unions. Lamont McClure, himself a lawyer, obviously realizes this is a specialized field. He knows in-house lawyers are at a disadvantage when negotiating complicated union contracts without outside help.
That's exactly what he wants! He may be elected by the taxpayers, but his Master is the Union.
Naturally, McClure has been complaining about "excessive" fees paid to this firm. The Stoffa administration, realizing it had no contract for outside legal help, requested proposals from Hallman Tudders and other firms. These were evaluated and graded by a committee. Guess who managed to get himself appointed to that committee? That's right. It was Lamont McClure. He even volunteered.
Here's what he did. He made sure he gave Hallman Tudders very low ratings, completely out of sync with other members. By doing this, he effectively took this firm, which knows the County, out of contention. As a result, the Administration had no choice but to propose awarding this contract for outside legal services to another firm.
When the matter came up last night, McClure made a mistake. He decided to play cute. Although a member of the committee making this recommendation, he told Council he would refuse to introduce the resolution. He really just wants to prevent the County from getting any half decent labor lawyers to deal with 11 different unions.
This made the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, suspicious. He began asking questions. When the smoke finally cleared, he had proven that McClure was manipulating the bidding process, trying to deprive the County of its labor lawyers.
Here's a transcript of the exchange among Angle, Fiscal Affairs Director Vic Mazziotti, McClure, Jerry Seyfried and Mike Dowd.
Angle: "Would I be safe in saying that Mr. McClure's votes were extremely low in one case, extremely, extremely low in one case, and extremely, extremely high in another case?"
Fiscal Director Vic Mazziotti: "I don't know if I can characterize the votes. Is it appropriate that I share this ...
Angle: "Well, you know, I inquired earlier about the possibility of going into executive session. I rarely like executive sessions, quite frankly, because you don't do the people's business in executive session. But I don't think this qualifies for executive session. I think it's the people's business and I think I am entitled and the public's entitled to every piece of information that you have."
Mazziotti: [after conferring with the Exec] "Well, I don't object."
At this point, Angle rambles offtrack about the Sunshine Law, and Vic agrees Ron's an expert.
Jerry Seyfried: "Do you think that the numbers were skewered?"
Angle: "Thank you. Wonderful question. You're co-counsel, you're giving closing arguments. I like that."
Mazziotti: [pause] "I don't think it's appropriate for me to characterize whether that's true or not ..."
Angle: "I have said many times, numbers are your specialty. You are an expert on numbers. His question was very fair. Do you believe, as an expert in numbers, that the numbers were skewered, yes or no?"
Mazziotti: "I think Mr. McClure's ..."
Angle: "Yes or no, I'm not asking Mr. McClure, I'm asking you."
Mazziotti: "Well, you have to define for me what you mean by ..."
Angle: "Very low, very high."
Mazziotti: "Yes, I would say that's true, in a couple of categories."
Angle: "Thank you very much. So at this point in time, if you want my opinion, we need to throw out how this process was done, and frankly, I'm not a fan of Tallman Hudders, but I think they did get the shaft. We need to throw out the process, I'd like you to have a new committee, and not have anybody on that committee who has personal axes to grind. The system was flawed, and the system should never be flawed so that it is skewered. I say that and I am not a Tallman Hudders fan. I am just the opposite, I'm not fond of that firm. But in all fairness, fair is fair, right is right, wrong is wrong. You want to table this? This would be a great time to table it ..."
Seyfried: "It hasn't been introduced."
Mike Dowd (presiding for an absent Ann McHale): "It hasn't been introduced. At the moment, it hasn't been introduce, so we don't have anything to discuss."
Angle: "This is not the first time this has happened, quite frankly, and it's very disturbing to me."
Dowd: "It has not been introduced, then it fails for want of not being introduced, and we will ask the Administration to come back."
Angle: "I would hope, Mr. Executive, that you would do the process over so that the process is not flawed and it is done 100% above board."
McClure: "Well, what was not above board?"
Angle: "What was not above board was, your numbers on the outfit that won it were extremely high. It was enough to sway it over, that that's who it went to. Your numbers on the firm that came in second were extremely low, and not in line with anybody else's numbers."
McClure: "Are you sure about that? Are you sure about that? Why were my numbers on the outfit that won it extremely high?"
Angle: "I'm not done yet."
McClure: "Why were my numbers on the outfit that won it extremely high?"
Angle: "I'm not interested in this. Mr. Mazziotti has answered my questions for me. But I can give you many areas where you've done the same thing."
McClure: "Oh no, I want to know from you, in public, why my numbers on the outfit that won it ere extremely high?"
Angle: "For once, you got caught."
McClure: "I got caught doing what, Ron?"
Angle: "The same thing you caught caught for with the Gambling Authority. Hauling somebody in. Using your influence as a County Councilman, you brought a law firm in from Harrisburg and said, 'These are experts,' trying to lobby for that firm. That's not what you should be doing."
McClure: "So the law firm that got recommended by the Administration tonight got recommended because of my extremely high grades for them?"
Angle: "Well, let's try this. Mr. Mazziotti, had Mr. McClure's votes not been calculated and only the votes of the other people, would not Tallman Hudders have been the high score?"
Mazziotti: "I believe so."
Angle: "Thank you very much. End of case. I don't want to discuss it with you, Mr. McClure, you've been caught. Let's move on."
McClure: "Caught doing what, sir?"
Angle: "Your usual stuff is what you were caught doing?"
McClure: "What is the usual stuff? What is the thing I've been caught doing?"
Angle: "Mr. President, let's move on."
McClure: "Move on to what? You've made an accusation, now state it."
Angle: "I've proved my accusation."
McClure: "You've proved what?"
Ignoring McClure for the moment, Jerry Seyfried asked Executive John Stoffa to establish another committee to take a second look at the proposals. Acting president Dowd agreed the process has to be redone, and Council voted to do so. Jerry Seyfried then suggested that McClure might want to explain what he was doing.
By this time, a very red and angry McClure shouted, "Do I want to explain anything? I don't want to explain anything. [Angle] made an allegation about a tainted score. I want to know what he means."
As Acting President Dowd moved onto the next item on the agenda, McClure put his hand over the mike and started mouthing "Bye, Bye" to Angle. The Bulldog turned his mike on and barked at McClure, "I'm not going bye, bye, Lamont. Your buddy John going to send me away? I don't think so."
I don't think so either. But if Angle had been ousted from Council, McClure would have a much easier time screwing the County out of the lawyers they need to deal with unions.
Maybe Morganelli should seek an emergency hearing.